The Beaches and Rainforests of Olympic National Park

The drive across the peninsula is a good one. The towering trees, a sea of green, until a turn brings you to a rough, tangled beach that matches up with the vision a person has of the Pacific Northwest. There is so much to do here but at the same time perhaps the greatest joy is just doing nothing… walking the beaches slowly, paying attention to the tide, and of course, picnicking in the sand.

We set up camp first at  Mora Campground just a couple miles from Rialto Beach. It was busy but we found a nice big spot and set up next to some fellow Montanans. The sun set quick so we made dinner and enjoyed the lush rain forest that surrounded us. That’s the thing with the frequent rain in these parts– it makes for the most beautiful landscape around.


We spent a day exploring the beaches near to camp: Rialto, First, Second, and Third Beaches (Second and Third being favorites). These aren’t the swimming beaches of my youth. They’re wild, majestic places that demand caution and respect. There are signs everywhere about the danger of the massive logs strewn about the beach and those in the water and the power of  the tides. There are advisories about reading the tide chart before going on  the hikes along the beach as wrong timing will make the difference between exploring tide pools and sea caves and being trapped  with no way back! We timed some right, others we had to miss. Then we picnicked and hiked and settled in at the campsite early, enjoying an indulgent birthday feast for me.

South of Mora we drove until we arrived at the notorious beachfront campground, Kalaloch. We snagged one of the last spots in a sea of RVs, generators buzzing with fury. If not for the incredible access to the beach below I’d have been disappointed coming from the campsites we came from. But being able to wander down slippery stairways coated in saltwater to a vast beach and even more vast ocean made it worth it. We walked for miles and scouted out beautiful tide pools rich with sea life. The one morning, I even saw otters jumping in the waves and running toward the tide pools to see their bounty. At at last, after a week of looking, we saw evidence of whales blowing water high into the air. We snacked on blackberries straight from the bush, coated in sea salt. We walked Ruby beach, once known for its ruby-colored crystals that would wash up on shore. Alas, we found none, but we did find a sweet friend we made at the Lopez Island Winery.

One day, we drove south to the Hoh Rainforest. The peace of emerald green and vines strung about as if we were on a set of a movie (as we always say in the west) and reminding ourselves that it is this that the movies are based on. We set out on a beautiful hike that took us through the rain forest, passing  hikers coming home from a through hike, and walked along the river before turning back. The  massive nature of the trees can’t quite be done justice in words or photos… you just have to go. I loved the walk, moving through different air masses of varying temperature and humidity.


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